Cincinnati plays Harvard in a 5 vs 12 game on Thursday at 2:10 pm. Since I'm assuming a lot of us didn't follow the Ivy that close, here are 10 things about the Harvard Crimson.
They dominated conference play.
Harvard went 13-1 in the Ivy. That shows some domination. The Crimson won their Ivy games by 16, 30, 6, 20, 7, 4, 23, 20, 12, 24, 23, 22 and 5. A lot of crooked numbers. The Crimson won the final 8 in a row to close the regular season and seal up the bid.
Harvard can play a number of various tempos.
The Crimson played games with as much as 82 possessions, Brown, and as few as 53 possessions, Cornell. Overall, they were a 65 possession team in the league. That ranked right about the middle. They have the ability to play the slow style that Cincinnati likes. That could be a problem because …
Harvard is the second best non-power team to make the field according to Ken Pom.
Harvard checks in at 33 on the Ken Pom rankings. The only non-power conference team ahead of them is a power team in Wichita State. Cincinnati ranks 24 on Ken Pom if you were wondering. There are only two matchups in the top 33. One of those is Tennessee / Iowa, separated by 14 spots. The other is Cincinnati / Harvard, separated by 9. It's not even a 7 vs 10 because no 10 seeds are ranked in the top 33.
The reason Harvard is ranked so high are the next two points.
The Crimson are very solid defensively.
Harvard gave up just 0.91 points per possession in Ivy play. They gave up more than 1 point per possession against anyone, anyone, 7 times. Three of those were in the losses to Yale, Florida Atlantic and a healthy Colorado. Those weren't even the three worst performances.
Harvard held 14 teams to under 0.90 points per possession. 13 if you don't want to count MIT, who has a 0.00 in a 68 possession game MIT scored 37 points. The defense can play. We've seen Cincinnati not play the slow down style well when it's thrown against them. See the Connecticut game for more details.
The Crimson offense is very efficient.
While not rated as highly as their defense, Harvard just misses a top 50 offense on Ken Pom. Against top 50 offenses this season, Cincinnati is 2-3. The wins were against Louisville and Pittsburgh, the losses Louisville, Xavier and New Mexico. Harvard's offense comes out just about as good as Houston's. That's kind of worrisome when you think back on Houston putting a monster run on Cincinnati and playing the game at UC pretty close.
Harvard had some stellar games offensively against Columbia, Cornell and Fordham. They lit up Horizon champion Green Bay on 1.16 points per possession and Vermont to 1.11. They can hang points in efficient ways.
That's in large part because of passing and turnovers. The Crimson have 3 guys who share the ball very well with Siyani Chambers, Wesley Saunders and Brandyn Curry. Those 3 guys do not turn the ball over, 61 to 28, 56 to 25 and 41 to 18 turnover to assists respectively. Harvard turns the ball over just as much as Cincinnati.
The offense has gone away in losses.
All 4 Harvard losses came when the team scored under a point per possession. The best effort was 0.96 to Yale. Colorado and UConn held them to 0.90 and 0.87 points per possession. The rock bottom was a 0.80 ppp against Florida Atlantic.
Harvard shot under 40% in all of those losses, 23% to FAU. Even their foul shooting was shaky. In a year they hit 72.6% from the line, Harvard shot 56% against Yale, 69.2% against Colorado, 70% against UConn and 67.6% against FAU. All under the season average.
Harvard shoots the hell out of the 3 ball.
Harvard didn't attempt the most in the Ivy, 221, they didn't make the most, 92, but they were the deadliest team at 42.1%.
They have 3 guys who do most of the bombing. Laurent Rivard is the biggest one to watch. He was 43 / 89, 48.3% in Ivy play. Siyani Chambers was 20 / 48, 41.7%. Brandyn Curry was 21 / 53, 39.6%. It's not going to come in volume, it's going to come in makes. 12 times this year Harvard hit at least 40% from 3. 17 times they shot at least 35%. For comparison, UC hit at least 40% six times and at least 35% 15 times.
They are balanced.
4 players put up at least 101 field goal attempts in Ivy play, with the high at 111. The fifth man was at 98 and the sixth at 89. The top 5 scorers all average double figures from Steve Moundou-Missi's 12.6 to Brandyn Curry's 10.4. Kyle Casey pops 8.8 in the sixth spot. Curry is the 6th man on the team.
Those 6 all average at least 21 minutes per game. They are a team in the full sense of the word. When you break things down further, Moundou-Missi rebounds the best, Wesley Saunders gets to the line the most and Rivard shoots the most 3s. The guards are great passers as mentioned, which helps the offense work like this.
Harvard does not give up free throws.
The Harvard free throw rate this entire season was 36.5, meaning they gave up 36.5 free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts. Harvard gave up 565 this season. That was the 26th fewest in the nation.
They won an NCAA tournament game last year.
Harvard won an NCAA game last year. They know what it takes to pull off an upset. An 11:10 start in Spokane with not a lot of people there and whoever is there rooting for the upset is something that bodes well for them.
This is a very dangerous team. They have a gaudy record and a low strength of schedule, but they played Colorado, a healthy Colorado, and Connecticut very close. They beat solid mids like Green Bay, Boston and Vermont. This could be a tough matchup for the Cats.